Saturday, May 12, 2012

Investing is like raising children

People love their children.  Society talks about "investing" in our children or "children are our future".  Especially when a school levy needs to be passed.  More recently with the whole debt problem.  People talk about our children and grandchildren won't have the same opportunities as we had...if XYZ candidate gets elected.

I have heard time and time again that people love investing in their kids.  They spend time with them, teach them new things, help them grow and pay for their education.  Many people would consider our children an investment.  Others consider them a liability.  I suppose it all depends on how you raise your kids.

My question is then...how come when it comes to investing to make money it shouldn't be the same way?  The idea that it takes time, learning new things, management, and money to grow your investment seems rather silly.  All these elements are equally important.  Most of us would rather raise our own kids, than have some stranger raise our kids.  However, when it comes to investing...many people let others do that work for them.

I wrote about this in my previous article trading vs. investing.  Most "investments" aren't even investments at all, but rather a trading activity.  This is regardless of how long you keep the "investment".  After all, most people who invest tend to think of the stock market.  The only element of the investment process is dumping money in some fund or stock.

The stock market is primarily a secondary market.  Meaning the initial investment has already been made.  The company gets no money from you.  All you are doing is buying from another shareholder.  The company had been grown, managed, and eventually marketed to the public.  The people who did this are the ones who got rich.  Can anyone do this?  It is possible for anyone to start their own company and take it public.  However, it does take time, money, management, business skills, knowledge and leadership.  The great thing about business is that you don't even have to do it by yourself!

I suppose if you hate people...or think everyone is ignorant and stupid...business is probably not right for you.  If you aren't willing to learn or share your knowledge with others...then forget it.  Business people need to be open minded, and realize that they don't know very much.  Some of the most successful business people are teachers.  Not your government teachers...these are business leaders.

Unlike in school where you get in trouble for using the answers from the smartest kid in the class.  In business...it is encouraged to have the smartest people you can afford to help you out.  Sometimes you can even get those smart people to work for free.  This is called a partnership, or you could have several people become major stakeholders and form a small company.  No longer do you have to memorize stupid formulas or definitions...you can just Google it.

Unfortunately for some reason it is frowned on in academia to have others help out.  With the exception of group projects.  People loathe group projects.  I loved them...it was a great opportunity to do more work in less time.  Plus you get to meet new people.  Why don't people like doing group projects?  Probably because someone gets stuck on a team where someone doesn't deliver.  I've had this happen only one time, and it really didn't matter too much in the end.  I think perhaps the reason why group projects go so poorly is because people don't take the time to get to know each others strengths and weaknesses.  The focus typically is on passing the class and working on whatever the "team" assigned you to do.

In my opinion college is all about networking.  If you built the right relationships with people at the university...surely you could start a business in your dorm room and launch a business.  Many others have done this.  I wish I would have done that my freshman year instead of playing video games.  I just didn't know any better.

The same is true for those in the military.  You might have to be a little more tactful in your approach, but could be a great opportunity to learn.  One thing to look for is people who aren't quite like yourself.  The old saying...a bird of a feather flock together.  In business, that doesn't help you out very much.  Diversity is much more important and necessary.  You can run into other problems like personality conflict problems.  Regardless of these problems...the most important aspect of a team is trust.  If you cannot trust each other, then it is game over.  The good thing about trust is typically it isn't earned.  I would say that for most people...trust is lost.  Once trust is lost it is nearly impossible to get back.

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